What Happened to Our Dodgers?

Kristin DellContributor ISeptember 16, 2010

LOS ANGELES - JULY 19:   Matt Kemp #27 of the Los Angeles Dodgers is caught in a rundown between first baseman Travis Ishikawa #10 and second baseman Freddy Sanchez #21 of the San Francisco Giants on July 19, 2010 at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, California. Kemp was tagged out  for the third out of the second inning. (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images



So much can be said about the 2010 Los Angeles Dodgers and why they are currently in 4th place when they should be getting ready to clinch the division like they did the past two seasons.  OK, so the Dodgers have NEVER won three pennants in a row.  I sure would have liked to have tried though.  Heck, I would have even been willing to take a Wild Card win like in 2006 but I just don’t see it happening.  Joe Torre’s streak of 13 consecutive postseason appearances as a manager will also come to an end.  So how did this happen?


So many fans want to blame the McCourts and their courtroom drama.  I am not one of those fans.  Frank and Jamie or just Frank have nothing to do with why Manny can’t play the outfield or why Matt Kemp makes base running blunder after blunder or our closer has gone MIA.  You also can’t blame Joe Torre.  OK, you can blame Torre a little bit because he’s the one pulling pitchers out of games too soon and bringing in the wrong pitchers, always trying to make the “textbook” move.  This was the biggest complaint against Joe when he managed the Yankees, the mishandling of the pitching staff.  So much emphasis is placed on pitch count now that it’s sickening.  Unless you are a young up and comer who has never pitched in the big leagues for so many games in a season, to me pitch count is obsolete.  OK, so you don’t want to be the guy who allows Edwin Jackson to close in on 150 pitches because he’s throwing a no hitter.  Well, he threw that no hitter, was mediocre with Arizona, was traded to Chicago and has done well there, not missing any time due to overuse. 


Another thing to not blame is the payroll.  OK, so the team has shaved about 30 million off of team payroll in the past couple of seasons.  Just because you have a high payroll doesn’t guarantee you anything, just look at the San Diego Padres and the Texas Rangers who have some of the lowest payrolls as well as the Cincinnati Reds.  Then you get the Seattle Mariners, Boston Red Sox, Chicago Cubs, New York Mets with bloated payrolls and really no chance of going to the postseason…you get what I am saying.  So should the Dodgers have resigned someone like Randy Wolf?  Last time I checked Randy has a .500 record and in ERA of close to 5 as well as a near 10 million a season salary.  No thanks.  How about trading for Cliff Lee or for Roy Halladay?  OK,  you get someone every 5 days and they pitch great but if your batters don’t score runs for them, then what?  You have someone who pitches every 5 days who will lose 1-0 or 2-1. 


I have seen the Dodgers (from the Fox Era) who thought that by throwing money at free agents that the team would win.  Uh, not so.  I don’t think we will ever see a 5 year 90 Million contract again or a (gulp!) 7 years 105 Million contract (for a PITCHER nonetheless!).  A team has to have chemistry.  If not, then that team is lost.  I think the Dodgers have a good core of good young players and with a few additions via trade or free agency (within reason), this team should prosper.  So why didn’t they?  Many reasons.


Manny Ramirez became mortal or I should say, became 38 years old.  I am sure there were many fans who expected Manny to be like Barry Bonds was at 39, hitting 40+ homeruns and manning the outfield.  Well, those performance enhancing days are over and after Manny’s suspension we saw exactly how an immortal hero came crashing down to earth with a huge thud and looked every bit like someone who is past his prime.  But then what about the other factor?  That being when Manny is just in the lineup the hitters hit better?  Manny could go 0 for 4 and make an error in the outfield but the hitters AROUND him are performing.  Why is that?  I don’t know.  I mean, here you are looking at Manny now, a singles and doubles hitter but who’s new team, the White Sox, have yet to lose with him as a member of their team.  I don’t get it…


The bullpen stinks.  Last season we had a good bullpen.  Jonathan Broxton was lights out, we got George Sherrill in a trade deadline deal and he performed above and beyond his expectations, Ronald Belisario was very good.  This season all three have had their share of struggles and as you know, if you don’t really have a reliable closer, you aren’t going to get very far.  Heath Bell of the Padres has 38 saves and Brian Wilson of the Giants has 40 saves.  Sherrill has been lost since day 1 of the season and Belisario has had some off the field issues and he didn’t have a proper spring as he had Visa problems. 


We have no clutch hitter or very little of it.  There haven’t been too many last inning wins like last season.  I think Andre Ethier is simply worn out.  He no longer has Manny’s presence in the lineup and he’s being relied on to be the man after being labeled “Captain Clutch” and it’s hard for him to live up to that name.  Matt Kemp is having an off season.  OK, sure we can blame the off the field partying until all hours of the night on that one but I see a lot of regressing into bad habits.  Base running mistakes like he made the first couple seasons he was in the big leagues, a lack of plate discipline as he is on pace to strike out a career high 171 times.  His high before that was 153 back in 2008.  He’s flailing because he’s pressing.  Casey Blake is 37 years old.  37 years old for a third baseman is old.  He is under contract for one more season.  Rafael Furcal is injury prone.  When Raffy is playing he is great but his body seems to be made of glass these days and he can’t be relied on.  Russell Martin has lost his mojo.  Sure Russ is great behind the plate but his lack of hitting or should I say hitting for power has hurt this team.  Having Rod Barajas there has been nice simply because this team really doesn’t have a lot of power threats in it.  Speaking of that, yes, we have not a lot of power.  Is it a big deal?  Yes, just because this team has struggled manufacturing runs.  James Loney for his lack of power this season (9 homeruns) is still a great run producer with over 80 RBI’s so far. 


What has been good?  How about this?  The starting pitching.  Since there were so many critics saying before the season how this team doesn’t have a true ace and this and that?  Well, I am happy with Chad Billingsley.  Here’s a guy that has struggled in the 2nd half the past couple of seasons and who is pitching brilliantly.  Clayton Kershaw.  The kid came straight out of high school and needed time to get himself into a groove and boy has he.  Vicente Padilla.  Ok he has been on the DL twice this season but when he has been healthy, he has been great.  Hiroki Kuroda.  For someone who has missed time due to injury in seasons past, he has pitched very well this season.  Ted Lilly, possibly the best trade deadline pitching transaction that was made (and that includes Cliff Lee).  We have also had a number of guys fill in for injured pitchers like Carlos Monasterios and John Ely and Charlie Haegar.  OK, Haegar was the worst, Monstaerios was mediocre and Ely was the best.  These guys will only get better.  Hong Chih Kuo.  What an amazement he has been.  So amazing that he was a first time All Star as he should have been.  The only problem is that he has been injury prone in the past so Joe has to be very careful when using him.  Jamey Carroll.  Talk about MVP.  This guy plays where needed and whenever and is the team sparkplug.  Reed Johnson.  He has been a great 4th outfielder and Jay Gibbons has been able to give the team that additional pop when needed because sometimes the power is just not there. 


How could we have won?  Little things.  If we had the Manny of late 2008, a more disciplined Matt Kemp, a less mentally drained Andre Ethier, a full season from Raffy, more production from Casey Blake and Russell Martin (but I guess we got that in Rod Barajas), a better bullpen.  This team didn’t need to go out and add 30 Million to payroll.  This team is capable of winning on their own.  I have seen it done but when your bullpen has an ERA of around 5 since the All Star Break, that’s not a really good sign. 


What about next season?  Again, the top things mentioned and being able to keep out starting rotation or at least replacing them with comparable pitchers.  Ted Lilly, Hiroki Kuroda and Vicente Padilla are all free agents.